Sunday, July 3, 2016

On Spiritual Direction for a Catholic Hermit

Yet another aspect of spiritual direction or spiritual counsel comes to mind, this morning.  This thought reflects upon the hermit him- or herself, seeking, needing, having spiritual direction.

Really, there are many factors involved in this topic, various conditions, numerous circumstances and considerations.

While adapting to the sad news (only a mystic or one who has had glorious death experience might understand this perspective) that this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit's lung and liver nodules and whatever the "splayed and frayed" quadrant of liver means--that no malignancy showed up on a PETScan, I had considered contacting a hermit monk/priest not too far away.  I thought it might be good to have a pep talk, of sorts.

But the days have dawned and dusked since that thought, and I have not made the contact nor traveled to visit Fr. P.  The body has had some increased pain, requiring more mattress time.  The remaining bodily energy has necessitated keeping the produce gardens watered.  The little roadside stand must be laden with God's best in vegetables and berries!

A primary inner response to my conversation with the Lord on the idea (probably my mind's thought, not His) of going for a pep talk from a fellow religious hermit, has been that it is unnecessary at this time.  I was asked, "What is the true need and motive?  What are you seeking from the visit?"

Good questions.  Also came the realities that with it soon being 16 years of commencement of my hermit vocation, postulancy, novitiate, and profession of private vows, that whatever pep talks I may think would make adaptations to increased pain and the disappointment of not soon dying of cancer, can be proffered by His Real Presence, solus Deus!

So true.  What were my motives for considering going to talk with Fr. P.?  Did I want someone to wave a magic wand and make somehow easier the refocusing on my hermit vocation and the daily life of prayer, praise, suffering, lectio Divina, manual labor, and living by the Spirit?

Do I really need to travel to talk with a fellow religious solitary?  Do I have some great turning point decision to make that I do not grasp nor that the Lord will show me and lead me through?  Am I on the verge of some major temptation to think or do something pivotally, mortally sinful?  Am I  having despair that His Real Presence is incapable of squelching, or am I assaulted by the devil in ways not recognizable, or in some dire self-deception that the Lord is not shining His Light upon?

To all these questions, the answer has been a simple "No."  Even the ups and downs and my own mind's deliberations on trying to get to Mass this weekend have been answered by the Lord's adding some weight to the physical cross of increased bodily pain.  Not able to drive and sit extra for participating in Mass--vigil last evening or Sunday, today.  Perhaps next week; the Lord will either allow the body to physically be able to go or not.  Must wait in the Order of the Present Moment, make the spiritual communions as often as His Real Presence suggests and that my subconscious and/or conscious mind responds.

(Now we can insert that if my mind were to be replaced by God's Mind, the spiritual communions would emanate and fructify spiritually regardless of my conscious or subconscious thoughts or agreements. Dear Lord, please--Thy Mind, not mine.  Am so excited about the prospects but recognize God rules time and all aspects of the temporal and spiritual!)

It is not that a consecrated Catholic hermit of the traditional, privately professed variety or of the more recently offered category of public profession received in the hands of a local ordinary (bishop) do not ever need spiritual direction or counsel by another person or superior after being a hermit "x" amount of years.  Far from that.  In fact, the publicly professed hermit (referred to by some as canonical hermit) are to be under the direct supervision of their diocese's bishop.

And for all hermits and indeed all Christians, Catholic or otherwise, it is excellent practice to have a spiritual mentor or for Catholics, a spiritual director, who can counsel, encourage, guide, suggest, and help motivate from time to time, in the soul's pilgrimage on earth.  The goal, after all, is union with God and to live by the Spirit in Christ Jesus, being freed from living under the law: to be as Christ, in Him, He in us.

Even spiritual directors--bishops, cardinals, the Pope himself--ought to have someone to turn to when need be.  A confessor, a guide, a spiritual mentor--all beneficial and in some cases, necessary.

The hermit, though, falls into a bit of a loophole depending upon how the Lord has unfolded the circumstances of his or her vocation.  We know for a fact that there have been and are today, some Catholic hermits whose vocations are more hidden than others, whose health or locale is such that traveling to a spiritual director is not always feasible.  Even confession may circumstantially need to be mostly (not always) done through begging God's mercy and asking His forgiveness for our sins that we pour out from our hearts to His Merciful and Sacred Heart.

So there is yet correspondence via surface mail as well as now the internet email as means of communicating with a spiritual counselor, mentor, guide.  Sometimes that is hindered, though.  For example this hermit's spiritual director does not now have access to direct phone lines and does not have a computer nor an email address.  I can leave a message, but more often than not, the message does not reach him.  I can send a letter, but his health is such that he does not respond often nor at length.

The other person I have relied upon for spiritual counsel has been a very spiritually adept order priest, but he is in Nigeria.  Internet services at his community's seminary and monastery are intermittent in functionality.  By the time he is able to read an email, the issues I have addressed are already unraveled and solved by His Real Presence, here in the silence of solitude of Te Deum Hermitage.

I do know that both priests pray for me root for me, and also have confidence that if I remain in His Love (as they each commend), all will go well and as God wills and desires.

There are the spiritual directors and mentors who have written tomes of wisdom and of all manner and types of spiritual obstacles and the means to overcome them in the temporal-mystical admixture of our earthly journeys and soul-seeking of union with His Real Presence.  We have the Catechism of the Catholic Church and access online to any Canon Law we may desire to consult.  But the latter is not usually the type of concern or obstacle to a consecrated hermit.

Mostly, our issues revolve around the inner life of which there can be any number of pitfalls.  The devil lurks always, hoping to cause mischief to outright chaos in order to distract us and uproot our vocations, our daily lives, our prayers, our very souls.

Yet for this hermit here, in the past several weeks, although there have been distractions and chaos, and my daily routine disrupted, and my mind definitely filled with lots of thoughts that were not God's Thoughts, there really has been nothing needing my seeking human guidance when His Real Presence and my guardian angel (Beth!) has been using temporal and spiritual circumstances to unfold according to God's Will and His Mind's Wisdom.

I know what I'm to be doing.  I know what I must ponder and pray about. I know what is required of me in my hermit vocation, my daily practices, my spiritual reading, my prayer life, my praise of God.  This is a phase in which, His Will having replaced my will, the main sticking point is that of my mind and ideas and thoughts needing to be subsumed and filled in with his Mind, His Insights, His Wisdom.  And that, I know, like all else in the temporal and especially the spiritual realms, requires a process that includes earth time and also some suffering, some dying such as death of my own intellect.

The Lord will let me know when I do need to have a visit with Fr. P. or even a parish priest, and He will allow me the physical health and capability to travel to that person, or the ability for that person to travel to my hermitage.  The time it was evidently necessary for the spiritual director to return a message and then to write a letter, he did so.  God had it all flow without obstacles.  And I got the message, and I am striving to fulfill the advice.  The recent email from Fr. V. in Nigeria contains some prayer requests on his end as well as the reminder to remain in His Love and all will be well, and God will lead and guide thoroughly, competently.

I suppose at a certain age in a hermit's chronology and after enough years of being a consecrated Catholic hermit of either type, there is a reality to the admonition to "go into your cell and your cell with teach you."  Particularly for a hermit, being called out of the world in a stricter separation from the world, the battles fought are mostly interior, of the mind, heart, spirit, soul.

And these require prayer, listening, perseverance, sticking to the daily routine, the Rule of Life, and adherence to His Living Word in faith, hope, and charity.  If one has been received into the Order of the Present Moment, in which St. Joseph is patron, the habit is whatever one happens to be wearing at any given moment, the Virgin Mary the novice mistress and His Real Presence the Superior and Spouse, when the devil is allowed to stir and confuse, the hermit is in very good Hands.

When His Real Presence desires a visit to or from a spiritual director, or a message sent and received, that will happen, of course.  God does all, provides all.

Above all, again, these reflections vary depending upon the individual hermit or anyone, actually, and upon the varying circumstances of each individual body, mind, heart, and soul.  Truly, a hermit does need consistent spiritual direction or some type of guided formation along the way, especially in the earlier years of the vocation.  

Yet also, the hermit always needs to be on the alert to the prowling of the devil no matter how old or how many years a hermit.  Thus, one should always have a holy priest or saintly hermit contact, to call upon in any present moment.  God will provide either Himself or a priest or spiritual guide, an angel or human, when necessary.  He knows!  He does not leave us to be devoured by the evil one!

God bless His Real Presence in us!  Little children, let us love God above all things and one another as Jesus love us!

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